Serial Mistake-Makers on Climate Change (2)

Howard Friel is author most recently of The Lomborg Deception: Setting the Record Straight on Global Warming (Yale University Press, 2010), and with Richard Falk of The Record of the Paper: How The New York Times Misreports US Foreign Policy (Verso, 2004) and Israel-Palestine on Record: How The New York Times Misreports Conflict in the Middle East (Verso, 2007).


Question: What does an article about Miami Beach architecture in a defunct travel magazine have to do with the issue of sea-level rise due to global warming?


Answer: Absolutely nothing.


Why then did Bjorn Lomborg footnote a key sea-level claim in his 2007 book, Cool It: The Skeptical Environmentalist’s Guide to Global Warming, to an article about Miami Beach architecture in a travel magazine?


Why also did Lomborg footnote another aspect of the same claim about sea-level projections to “fig. 10.6.1,” “fig. 10.6.3,” and “fig. 10.6.4” from chapter 10, Working Group I, of the 2007 IPCC Assessment report, when no such figures can be found there or anywhere else in the 2007 IPCC report?


And with regard to Lomborg’s same claim about sea-levels, why also did Lomborg (with sarcasm) hold Al Gore’s sea-level estimates in An Inconvenient Truth—the film and book, both of which were issued in 2006—to sea-level projections from the 2007 IPCC assessment report, which was published a year after Gore’s movie and book?


Presumably, a respected author such as Matt Ridley would have thought to read my book, prior to criticizing it and me, and therefore would have been familiar with such details as I wrote about them in The Lomborg Deception (2010) before allowing himself to be bamboozled by Lomborg into misrepresenting what I wrote. Apparently referring to chapter 6 in my book, “On Greenland and the Missing Figures,” wherein the “missing figures” (as identified above) are discussed, Lomborg claimed (without elaboration) that I had accused him of “missing endnotes.” Lomborg thus wrote: “[Friel] claimed that endnotes were missing when they clearly exist.” This is a clever diversion. It is analogous to Lomborg writing, after being accused of stealing a Rembrandt: “Friel accused me of stealing a painting, and here it is.” This is Lomborg 101 and Ridley flunks, on this count and all others, while extensively quoting Lomborg as his tutor for his criticism of my book.  


For the record: In a May 31 column in the Guardian, George Monbiot was highly critical of Ridley’s new book, The Rational Optimist: How Prosperity Evolves. At one point, Monbiot criticized Ridley for referencing Lomborg favorably; Monbiot then invoked my book as evidence that Lomborg’s work is seriously flawed. Ridley responded on his Web site by reproducing verbatim comments by Lomborg about me and my book, whereupon Ridley concluded: “Friel’s book is itself packed with significant errors and is easily answered in Lomborg’s rebuttal,” to which Ridley provides a link.


Although I had already responded to many of these charges in my rebuttal to Lomborg, which was posted on the Web site of Yale University Press on February 26, Ridley ignored both the content and existence of my rebuttal, and instead quoted only from the statement that Lomborg had posted on his Web site on February 23 that is critical of my book.


I provide below a response to Lomborg’s comments, presented vicariously by Ridley as his criticism of my book (about which he apparently knows nothing), which Ridley reproduced on his Web site as his full indictment.    

(Lomborg): In his longest chapter, Friel attempted to argue that my arguments were not supported by my source material. He claimed that endnotes were “missing” when they clearly exist, misread source figures and tables, relied on a misrepresentation of both my text and source material, and tried to shift the argument by claiming that I should have written about topics that he personally found more salient.

Re Lomborg’s Claim That I Accused Him of “Missing Endnotes”

I responded to this claim in my February 26 statement,[1] which Ridley ignored.  

In The Lomborg Deception, I wrote about no such “missing” endnotes. However, chapter six is titled, “On Greenland and the Missing Figures,” where I document how Lomborg itemized an important but misleading claim?that the 2007 IPCC assessment had projected a “standard” 12-inch sea-level increase by year 2100?by footnoting the entire itemization of that misleading claim to numbered figures in the IPCC report that do not exist. (See, The Lomborg Deception, pp. 117–119).


In a key paragraph in Cool It (see the paragraph that begins at the bottom of p. 62 and ends at the top of  p. 63), Lomborg footnoted this itemization to figures 10.6.1, 10.6.3, and 10.6.4 that, as his footnotes indicate, are supposed to be located in Chapter 10 of Working Group I of the 2007 IPCC assessment report. However, no such figures exist there or anywhere else in the 2007 assessment. Nor did Lomborg mistakenly write “figure 10.6.1” etc., for “section 10.6.1” etc., since those sections also do not support his itemization of a 12-inch sea-level increase by year 2100. In other words, Lomborg detailed a key tenet of his case that global warming is disaster—that sea-level rise due to global warming poses no serious threat—by footnoting non-existent sources in the IPCC assessment.  


Furthermore, in this same section in Cool It on “Rising Sea Levels,” and while referencing the 2007 IPCC assessment report, which, according to Lomborg, “estimates that sea levels will rise by about a foot over the rest of this century” (p. 60), Lomborg asked, regarding Al Gore’s 2006 film An Inconvenient Truth: “How is it possible that one of today’s strongest voices on climate change can say something so dramatically removed from the best science? The IPCC estimates a foot, Gore tops them twenty times” (pp. 60–62). However, as noted, the 2007 IPCC assessment report, to which Lomborg here refers, was issued a year after Gore’s 2006 film and book, An Inconvenient Truth.


Also, in the same section in Cool It on “Rising Sea Levels,” Lomborg wrote: “Yet sea-level increase by 2050 will be about five inches—no more than the change we have experienced since 1940 and less than the change those Art Deco hotels have already stood through” (p. 61). Lomborg footnotes this statement to one source: an article by travel writer Neal Matthews titled “The Attack of the Killer Architects” in a now defunct travel magazine titled Travel Holiday. The article by Matthews says nothing whatsoever about a five-inch sea-level increase by year 2050—the key factual claim in Lomborg’s sentence. Nor does the article by Matthews say anything about sea levels or about the Art Deco hotels in Miami Beach in any context related to sea levels.[2]


To top things off, the 2007 IPCC assessment report issued no single projection of a 12-inch sea-level increase by year 2050. Lomborg greatly oversimplified the IPCC’s 2007 assessment of the issue of sea-level rise to the point of misrepresentation, which might explain why he footnoted IPCC figures that do not exist in the IPCC report, an article in a travel magazine, and why he criticized Gore for not conforming his 2006 film and book to the 2007 IPCC assessment report. (For more details on Lomborg’s claims in Cool It about sea-level rise due to global warming, see The Lomborg Deception, chapter 5, “On Melting Glaciers and Rising Sea Levels,” pp. 90–116; and chapter 6, “On Greenland and the Missing Figures,” 117-132).


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